JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Forever Life Achiever Vikings youth football team — with kids as young as 5 years old — had more than $7,000 worth of equipment stolen just weeks before the start of the season.
Tuesday at practice on North Jefferson Street, some kids had helmets and shoulder pads. Some had one or the other. Some had none.
That’s because when team president Rickie Simon Jr. opened his storage shed up that held the equipment Monday, he was shocked to find that 46 helmets and 44 sets of shoulder pads had been swiped. Simon said that the total loss of the items listed on the police report totaled $7,315.
“We actually have a scrimmage next week, and the scrimmage is vital to our kids getting the opportunity to have that preseason experience with helmets and shoulder pads,” Simon said. “For some, this may be their first experience with helmets and shoulder pads, so that scrimmage with another opponent gives them the confidence that they need to go into the season.”
The good news is that Simon has already had some folks in the community reach out to offer to pitch in where they can, but they still need more help to get helmets and pads for kids.
Every year, Simon said, he pays out of his own pocket to make sure the kids have what they need to play football and learn those valuable life lessons.
Simon has led the teams for nine years, and this past spring, he attended the high school graduations of his first class of kids who had played for him. The impact that he tries to make through football has been a big focus for Simon, who grew up in the Brentwood area playing on the same fields.
“This was our first year, going to a graduation of our kids we served in the Blodgett,” Simon said. “When I went to the graduation, one of the kids was so excited that his youth football coach was present. To be able to provide for these kids means the world, because it goes beyond football.”
If you want to help, Simon has set up a way to collect donations. For information on how to donate, call 904-859-5453. Simon has also set up a Cash App for donations at $flavikings.
He says he’s found it difficult to track down new equipment because of a plastic shortage impacted by the many challenges in the supply chain in the wake of the pandemic, but he’s hoping to find a way to get all of his players in helmets and shoulder pads in time for the start of the preseason.